Guitar tech is now in a place where portable desktop amps can not only incorporate similar technology to full size gear, but they are also being taken seriously in direct comparison with more traditional amplifiers. A great example of this would be comparing the Yamaha THR10 to the Boss Katana – both are great amps in their own right, but can one replace the other?
In this KillerGuitarRigs review, we’ll be comparing the Boss Katana and the Yamaha THR10 to see if the Yamaha desktop has what it takes to outclass the ever popular Katana.
Models and Pricing
When it comes to variety, you’ll find a lot more in the Katana lineup. Boss make a full range of Katana amps, starting with the Katana mini, a 7 watt micro amp that can usually be found for around $100, right through to the Artist Series Katana 100 MKII, which typically retails around $600. The most popular model in the Katana series, however, is the Katana 50 MKII (full review here). The 50 is often considered one of the biggest bargains in the world of amps, and usually sells for as little as $250.
The Yamaha THR range is much more limited. At the bottom of the range is the THR5, a 10 watt version that typically retails for a little over $200. In the middle, the THR10, a 20 watt modeling amp that you can usually find for around $330 as a wired amp, or wireless for around $470. The top of the line model is the THR30, a wireless 30 watt combo modeling amp.
They might both be modeling amps, but do the Boss Katana 50 and the Yamaha THR10 have much in common? Keep reading to find out:
The Katana is pre loaded with 5 amp voicings to choose from. There’s a clean channel, crunch, lead, an acoustic voicing, and finally Brown, which is a model of the famous Boss Waza Craft amp head. The tones on each of the presets are genuinely fantastic, the clean voicing offers tons of headroom for an analog pedal board if that’s what you’re running, and it also handles the built in FX well, too. Crunch is gritty, and very reminiscent of a Marshall DSL40C. We especially loved the tight focus from the lead voicing, too.
The THR, like the Katana has a range of selectable preset amp voicings, including Modern, Brit Hi, Lead, Crunch, Clean, Bass, Acoustic, and Flat. We were also impressed with the overall tones from this amp, particularly at lower volumes. Keeping voicings accurate at bedroom levels is not an easy thing to do, so credit where it’s due to Yamaha. In particular, we loved that there was a flat voicing with no coloration whatsoever, specifically designed for line in pedals and FX.
Players looking for true effects modeling should definitely lean towards the Boss Katana. It boasts a huge range of built in FX, 60 to be exact, modeled on some of Boss’ best known and loved stompbox pedals. In the Boss Tone Studio software we were able to not only edit and modify the FX, but we were able to create some excellent signal chains. A slight downside is that a separate foot controller (sold separately) is really required to get the most out of the FX, but with it in place, the experience is great.
The lack of built in effects on the Yamaha THR is one of the most disappointing facets of an otherwise excellent desktop amp. Its dual effects circuits are easy to use, but limited in nature. They aren’t based upon any pedals in particular, and because there’s no FX looping capability, users are limited to a choice of chorus, flanger, phaser, or tremolo, combined with a delay/reverb effect – delay, delay/reverb, spring reverb, or hall effect. Each of the effects can be edited in the THR Editor software, which can conveniently be controlled by an android or iOS application, so it is possible to customize the sound, but this is still a resounding weak point for a modeling amp especially.
The Boss Katana is the clear winner when it comes to speakers. This is a very traditional looking combo amp, featuring a 12” speaker in a large cabinet. The quality of the Katana branded speaker itself is excellent. It provides big, mid range punch, and handles high gain and high volume exceptionally well. As well as high volumes, it also deals well with bedroom levels too thanks to the power control – we were able to select from 0.5w, 25w and 50w. This control isn’t a true attenuator, but it acts in much the same way, allowing for higher gain without the volume, giving you full control over tones when you need to keep the noise down.
The Yamaha THR10 is equipped with a pair of 3” stereo speakers, which we found to provide exceptional tones at low volume. Bedroom and quiet practice is really the intent of an amp like this, and although it still held up better than expected at higher volume, the small speakers simply could not produce the tones that the Katana was capable of when cranked.
These two amps offered a very similar overall user experience out of the box – neither had a particular edge over the other. Both have a similar layout of rotary dial controls, and despite both being modeling amps, neither offers an LED display, although the Yamaha does have a small multifunction LCD display.
Both amps rely on lights to display which settings are currently in use, which was one of our least favorite features of both models. Obviously the portability of the Yamaha is fantastic, making it great for at home practice as it’s much easier to move from room to room, but of course, small and portable doesn’t typically translate well to live performance, which really limits the use cases for the THR.
Final Thoughts on the Boss Katana vs. the Yamaha THR10
The Yamaha THR10 is absolutely one of the best desktop style amps out there. The tones are great, the styling is beautiful, including details like a tube glow from behind the speaker grille – of course, this is fully solid state, and there are no tubes in the unit, but it looks great. It’s not fully a case of style vs. substance, but we felt as though more effort had gone into making the Yamaha look the part than being any kind of a multitasking workhorse.
The Katana on the other hand is one of those rare amps that travels well between at home practice and jams/practices, and even to small liver performances. It offers great tones, great FX, and some really great amp models. The versatility that it offers is especially important if this is your only amp, and that versatility is what brings it out on top in this comparison.
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